The state of Michigan has filed a lawsuit against AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and Walgreens under a liability law that’s generally used against drug dealers.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel said the lawsuit is unique because it targets distributors under a 1994 state law that was created to fight illegal drug trafficking. The law allows people and government entities to sue drug dealers for damages.
Nessel claims the defendants “all used their licenses to distribute controlled substances in Michigan as a cover for what is essentially a criminal enterprise. They knowingly and deliberately distributed drugs in our state without controls. This was not only negligent. It was unlawful, a public nuisance.”
Nessel added that McKesson paid a $150 million in 2017 to settle a federal complaint alleging that it failed to detect and report pharmacies’ suspicious orders of prescription pain pills. In 2016, Cardinal Health agreed to pay the government $44 million to resolve similar allegations. Additionally, Walgreens agreed to pay $80 million in civil penalties in 2013.
“In 2018, we lost more than 2,000 Michiganders to opioid overdoses; that’s more than five people each day,” Michigan’s chief medical executive, Joneigh Khaldun, M.D. said. “The actions being taken by the Attorney General today will help ensure that those who contributed to the crisis bear responsibility and bring desperately needed resources into the state to save the lives of those caught in the crisis today.”
“This is not going away unless we make real, meaningful steps to protect our families, and give those struggling with opioid use disorder the resources they need to recover,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Nessel said that the four companies owe Michigan for increased costs related to law enforcement, drug rehabilitation, early childhood and special needs education and healthcare. She said she hopes the state can recoup $1 billion.
A Walgreens spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation. AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson didn’t immediately reply to messages seeking comment. They have previously, however, argued that they functioned as a delivery service and kept federal authorities apprised of the quantities being shipped.